Taste preference depends on where you are in the world
I guess if you judge by American standards, some of the things I like to eat might seem a little strange. Take Marmite for instance. This is a brown paste, a little thicker than molasses. It’s sticky and I like it spread on buttered toast. It has a concentrated, salty taste and the thing that puts many people off eating it is that it’s a yeast product made from the deposit at the bottom of beer barrels. It’s little wonder the British TV ad for it says you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. I love it.
So, what else do I eat that might spoil your appetite? Well, there’s black pudding, one of my favorites. This is an ancient dish. The Vikings used to eat it over a thousand years ago and it’s still very popular all over Europe today. It’s a blood sausage, made with pig’s blood, suet, bread crumbs and spices. Delicious fried with bacon.
Another British favorite is Haggis. I first had this when I was attending a course at Stirling University in Scotland and I loved it straight away. It consists of a sheep’s internal organs, chopped very fine with onions, oatmeal and spices, and served in the sheep’s stomach. The Scots like to eat it with what they call neeps and tatties — turnips and potatoes to us — together with Scotch whisky.
One thing I don’t eat on my infrequent trips back across the pond are pickled eggs. I don’t mind eggs, although I prefer mine over-easy, and these aren’t anything exotic, they’re simply a hard boiled egg that has been pickled in vinegar. They’re very popular over there but I’ve never developed a taste for them and, if I want special eggs, I prefer the dish called Scotch eggs. This, too, is a hard-boiled egg that has been encased in sausage meat, covered in egg wash and breadcrumbs and gently fried until golden brown, great eaten cold with cheddar, pickles and a glass of red wine.
In addition to these British foods I’ve eaten some foreign dishes that may seem strange to you. Frog’s legs in France for instance. These are just what it says, the rear legs of a frog, boiled, fried or baked. They look a little like chicken but have a hint of fish when you taste them. I don’t dislike them but, if there’s an alternative on the menu I’ll probably go for that instead.
French soupe de poisson — fish soup — is a must, however. Made with a variety of fish, onions, leeks, herbs, tomatoes and white wine and garnished with cheese it’s one of my favorites on a winter evening, although I must say I prefer it made fresh to the canned variety.
How do you like your steak? If it’s anything more than very rare, then beware of French steak tartare; it’s good-quality steak, ground up with onions, Worcestershire sauce, an egg and capers and served raw.
Snails are another dish the French are famous for of course and I’ve eaten them there. I’ve also had them in both Spain and Greece and I much prefer the Greek version served with a wine and garlic flavored herb butter, but then there’s not much about Greek cuisine that I don’t like.
I’m a great cheese lover, give me Stilton, bleu d’auvergne or a real, sharp cheddar and I’m happy. I like Brie, real feta and Camembert but I have to confess I’m not so keen on some American cheeses and I refuse to even try anything claiming to be cheese that has things added or comes in a spray can. Another cheese I will never touch is the Italian cheese known as Casu Marzu. This is a Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese that contains live maggots. The live stock are said to add to the flavor but I don’t eat insects and never will.
Having said that there are millions of people in the world who do eat and enjoy various types of insects. In Thailand for instance the locals love a dish called Jing Leed, in fact it’s the country’s No. 1 snack food, but as far as I’m concerned it’s off the menu because it’s grasshoppers, fried in a wok and served with a little sauce and pepper.
Next door in Cambodia they go one better in the city of Skuon. They catch and kill spiders, marinate then and then fry them in garlic. This makes me shudder just to think about it.
They’re not alone in food I’d never consider eating either. Australian Aborigines love witchetty grubs, huge white moth larvae that are either eaten raw or fried. In Mexico they consider Escamol a delicacy. It’s ant larvae collected from Tequila plants and in South Korea you can buy steamed Beondegi
everywhere. What is it? It’s silkworms and they are said to taste like wood. Who knew and, knowing, why would anyone want to eat them?
Over in Africa the good old stinkbug gets a beating, or rather a boiling because the locals think they taste a little like apple. Further south in the continent they dry or smoke mopane worms before cooking them with chili sauce. Reputedly they taste like honey-barbecue chicken but I’ll take their word for it because I’m never going to taste one.
Reading over this I think I’ve changed my mind, my favored foods aren’t strange, they’re just a little different and, compared to what’s above and the rotten fish dishes that are loved in Iceland, Sweden, Japan and Alaska, China’s ancient eggs and some Asian countries habit of eating their pets, I think they’re verging on normal.
Derek Coleman is a parttime writer who is a native of England and who now lives in Hurricane, W.Va. He can be reached at email@example.com.